While analyzing Wednesday's loss in Dallas. Brian discussed the danger of poking the basketball Gods one too many times before getting burned. Along those lines, Land O' Lakers blog regular "Exhelodrvr," equally concerned about repeating past failures, expressed the following opinion and kicked off a lively debate in the comments section of my brother's post:
- "I think that the answer is relegating (Andrew) Bynum to a bench role, and putting Lamar (Odom) back in the starting lineup. The team just doesn't "flow" with Bynum in. For whatever reason, it's just not working out with him.
The ensuing back and forth among LO'L readership got me thinking on the matter, and while I'm not positive it's truly "the answer" (as Ex phrased it), I'm starting to wonder if a swap is worth trying.
In my mind, this isn't a question of "demoting Bynum" or "promoting Odom." It's about trying to maximize the lineup and options, since the Lakers aren't reaping the true potential of their current roster. (Or at least I'd like to think they're not.) Is there a way to create a better collective over the course of 48 minutes and does that solution lie within the rotation itself?
I think most people would agree Pau Gasol and Odom play better together (and for longer, more sustained periods) than Gasol and Bynum. They typically finish games, and the Lakers have enjoyed the most success since 2008 with the two teamed as often as possible. Moving away from that duo, the offense (and sometimes the defense, despite the overall improvement) just hasn't flowed as well. As Ex mentioned, it's hard at times to understand why. Maybe it's because Lamar is a better conduit for the triangle's essential ball movement than Bynum. Maybe Pau and LO compliment each other better than Bynum and Gasol do. Maybe Odom, a better overall player than Bynum, is needed to offset Gasol (who I think is still feeling the effects of his hamstring injuries more than he'll admit) operating at less than 100 percent.
Personally, I think the biggest problem is Pau and Drew are snake-bitten when it comes to consistent time together on the court.
Gasol missed 17 games this season and Bynum missed two games where Pau actually played. That's 19 in all, nearly one-third of the season. That reasonably large chunk becomes even bigger when you consider Bynum's 32 games missed in 2008 and 47 in 2007. That's a regular season's worth of "inactive," an absence not only hurting his familiarity with Gasol, but perhaps stunting the natural growth in general of a kid with zero college experience coming into the NBA. It's hard to fake "experience," which makes an already difficult task --the teaming of two legit seven-footers-- even more difficult.
I still believe in the Bynum/Gasol duo's potential, but whatever future awaits is irrelevant for the time being. The "now" is what's important, and as we speak, this team needs a goosing. When the Lakers reached the Finals in 2008, it was with Odom and Gasol up front. When they won a title the next year, Drew was in the mix, but the two vets carried the load. Perhaps the replication of past success would be worth a shot.
Obviously, this approach isn't foolproof. For starters, Bynum's reaction to the move would likely be less than enthusiastic, and while I don't blame him for wanting to start (most players do), if he pouts, his performance would suffer. Also, Odom is a stabilizing source of second-unit guidance in a way Bynum and Shannon Brown can't be. The only possible substitute is Jordan Farmar. The onus would be on the point guard to not only step up his game, but serve as a leader. The bench would become Farmar's show to run, and if he's not playing within the sytem things will go to pot. The second unit has dealt with enough inconsistency as it is. They can't afford an even more drastic go around.
Having said that, Farmar and Bynum have displayed notable chemistry during past seasons while paired in the second unit. When the bench was first deemed a "mob" back in 2007, Drew and Jordan were the focal points. Along the same lines of Gasol and LO capturing past glory, perhaps these two could as well, with Shannon playing the role of Trevor Ariza's original incarnation -- game-changing spark plug. There would need to be mutual willingness and professionalism, but assuming both guys are down, it could be a win-win for everyone, especially since Drew's touches-per-possessions would undoubtedly increase (which he'll like) and he'd absolutely destroy second unit big men. I also don't think this move would drastically decrease his minutes, but just rearrange them.
It's about trying to get the maximum out of floor combos and players, as opposed to relocating Drew to the dog house.
And again, I don't think this move is truly mandatory --even the dissatisfied would admit Bynum/Gasol is considerably closer to Duncan/Robinson than Curry/Randolph-- which is why I wouldn't automatically fault Phil Jackson if he remains reluctant to give it a whirl.
But were I the coach sitting in PJ's fancy elevated chair, my inclination would be to shake the tree a bit to see what fruit falls. If it doesn't work, it's an easy enough reversal, and you continue looking to improve the original blue print, which is hardly a disaster. The relatively safe risk-reward ratio makes it feel worth a go.
What say you?